How a heated rivalry made Eric Gordon a Clippers secret weapon

Looking for stability in a season that includes little of it, the Clippers have turned to a participant who wasn’t on the roster till a month in the past.

“I believe he offers us a calmness when he’s on the ground,” coach Tyronn Lue mentioned.

Amid a rotation the place taking part in time is continually present process analysis, the Clippers have wanted little time to embrace the brand new face as a part of the lineups most frequently closing out tight video games.

“It comes right down to belief, we belief him with the ball,” All-Star Paul George mentioned. “He’s going to make the precise performs.”

That participant is Eric Gordon, the 34-year-old, 6-foot-3 reserve guard whose 89 fourth-quarter minutes since his Clippers season debut Feb. 14 are the crew’s second-highest whole in that span, surpassed solely by George’s 104. The Clippers have outscored opponents by 47 factors in these Gordon minutes, a plus/minus that isn’t solely a crew excessive however the sixth-best fourth-quarter plus/minus within the NBA since Feb. 14.

After 14 third-quarter factors Wednesday towards Golden State, Gordon performed the ultimate six minutes of the fourth quarter to complete off the Clippers’ important, fourth consecutive victory.

“I’ve all the time been this glue man, calming sensation to a crew the place I can go right into a recreation and I can change the sport and simply completely different sides and know the way to slot in,” Gordon informed The Los Angeles Instances. “Each crew I’ve been on, good crew, unhealthy crew, I’ve all the time been determining methods to slot in.”

The Clippers traded for Gordon believing he might present their lineups with this sense of safety. It’s a position he feels eminently comfy in, given the stakes — even amid the Clippers’ championship aspirations — don’t really feel so weighty after getting performed by means of basketball seasons surrounded, in reality, by safety.

Earlier than Gordon was a 15-year NBA professional, he was certainly one of America’s prime recruits, a guard constructed like a security who might will the ball into the ring. His verbal dedication to Illinois induced pandemonium. So did his determination to again out of his non-binding dedication and swap allegiances to conference-rival Indiana after the Hoosiers employed coach Kelvin Sampson.

Eric Gordon, whereas nonetheless in highschool, is greeted by followers earlier than an Indiana Hoosiers observe in October 2006.

(Darron Cummings / Related Press)

Broadsided by fan backlash after the swap, Gordon spent his senior 12 months of highschool in Indianapolis accompanied by a private safety guard. When he arrived at Indiana, his safety element was expanded to 2 folks, Gordon recalled Wednesday, saying Illinois followers typically tried to method him whereas he walked the Bloomington campus.

All of that was noise that reached a crescendo throughout Indiana’s street recreation at Illinois on Feb. 7, 2008.

The announcement of Gordon’s title pregame was almost drowned out by boos from an Illini crowd later described by Indiana’s pupil newspaper as “frothing on the mouth with hatred for Gordon.” When Gordon jogged to midcourt for a standard assembly of starters, Illinois guard Chester Frazier chest-bumped Gordon arduous sufficient to push the Hoosier guard backward a number of steps. Listening to calls of “liar,” Gordon scored only one level within the first half. He would end with 19 in a double-overtime Indiana win — one saved when Gordon’s three-pointer banked in to tie with 25 seconds left in regulation.

Additionally late within the recreation, ESPN reported on the time, beads have been thrown at a bit of followers that included Gordon’s mother and father. Gordon recalled Wednesday that for that recreation, 4 safety guards had been employed to guard his mother and father.

The expertise modified what he thought-about to be strain. Whereas being requested to house the ground, defend and complement Clippers stars George and Kawhi Leonard amid a title push carries loads, it’s additionally not fairly the identical as residing by means of a recreation he took that personally.

“Within the NBA you bought to battle by means of adversity on a regular basis, from crew to crew, no matter state of affairs on the court docket, it’s all about figuring it out and preventing by means of adversity,” Gordon informed The Instances. “And I realized plenty of that again in highschool and school.

“In school, nothing was actually going our means. We had a terrific crew, they all the time wished to fireside the coach, they fired him and our season ended unhealthy — after which the Illinois stuff. It was simply good to have that have.”

The Clippers are reaping the advantages in Gordon’s second stint with the crew.

Given his long-range credentials, Gordon’s taking pictures menace can be the first cause to maintain him in late, however he has shot simply 32% within the fourth as a Clipper, together with simply 4 for 18 on three-point makes an attempt. However Gordon has been reliable in limiting his errors — 15 assists towards solely two turnovers — and located methods to raise the bigger group, together with defensively. When Gordon is on the court docket in fourth quarters, opponents have made simply 40.9% of their pictures, the second-best mark on the roster. When he’s off, opponents have shot 55%. That hole of 14 share factors is the biggest on-off swing on the crew.

To open Wednesday’s second half towards the Warriors, Lue plugged Gordon into the beginning lineup void left by Marcus Morris Sr.’s ejection, and Gordon answered with 4 three-pointers coming from a median of 26 toes within the third quarter — the type of spacing the Clippers crave to tug his defender that a lot farther from the basket, and away from serving to defend stars George and Leonard too. Gordon reentered within the fourth quarter with the Clippers holding a seven-point lead and performed the ultimate six minutes of an eight-point win.

Clippers guard Eric Gordon, right, shoots in front of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

Clippers guard Eric Gordon, proper, shoots in entrance of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson throughout a recreation on Feb. 14.

(Mark J. Terrill / Related Press)

“Simply watching him and taking part in towards him over time, he simply all the time performed his position, regardless of the crew wanted him to do,” Lue mentioned. “He’s are available and informed me the identical actual factor, like, ‘No matter you want me to do, I’m gonna do.’ And he’s becoming in nice.”

Gordon isn’t the one newcomer to inform Lue that message of sacrifice. Gordon’s emergence as a better has typically sidelined the beginning guard, Russell Westbrook. But Westbrook was once more impactful in his 27 minutes, with 15 factors, 9 rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers whereas staying disciplined with what pictures he took towards a protection baiting him to take uncontested bounce pictures.

“You consider Russ, you concentrate on relentless,” George mentioned. “And that was the imprint he placed on the sport.”

A number of Clippers pinned the profitable streak, and the elevated consolation of rotation gamers Gordon, Westbrook and Mason Plumlee, who have been all added at or after the Feb. 9 commerce deadline, as the results of extra observe time than common in the course of the previous week. However that doesn’t clarify totally the turnaround, Gordon mentioned. Two weeks after postgame feedback following a loss towards Golden State by which he positioned the accountability of a late-season rebound on the gamers, Gordon stood within the locker room late Wednesday and mentioned a change in mindset had allowed it to grow to be actuality.

George, too, echoed that now, “we’re taking part in for each other and we count on to win — that was the large distinction.”

They usually have felt a distinction with Gordon’s calm within the clutch.

“I’m by no means afraid of taking a tricky shot on the finish of the sport as a result of there are going to be many extra moments within the recreation within the playoffs or whatnot you’ve simply received to be able to knock down these,” he mentioned.

In just one month with the Clippers, Gordon has already seen the toll of a five-game dropping streak and the rejuvenation of a four-game profitable streak. He retains it in perspective. He has performed by means of worse.